Washington landlords suing the state over eviction moratorium

SPOKANE, Wash. — A group of landlords has filed a lawsuit against Governor Jay Inslee over his ban on evictions during the pandemic. 

The Washington Business Properties Association says some of its members have not received a rent payment in several months. However, they are still expected to pay property taxes and utilities. 

Without receiving rent, Jeffry Speer says he couldn’t afford to keep his home, so he put it on the market. He says he would have been willing to make a deal with the old tenants, but they stopped communicating with him. 

Governor Inslee’s eviction moratorium was designed to protect renters. If they lose their jobs during the pandemic and can’t afford to pay rent, they can’t be evicted. 

However, that order has put landlords like Speer in a difficult position. 

“I’m paying property taxes, I’m paying rent for my own self right now and you know I can’t pay for them, too,” said Speer. 

He’s been renting the house in North Spokane for the last two years. This August, his tenants stopped paying and Speer says they didn’t offer an explanation. 

“They just started telling me it was none of my business and you know, expletives and this and that and they just seemed uncooperative,” said Speer. 

He says his hands were tied and on top of paying rent where he lives in Seattle, he still had to pay a mortgage, utilities, and property taxes in Spokane. 

“I have to pay my bills, too,” said Speer. 

Three landlords have filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Inslee. They say the order is violating their rights by “oppressively placing on them the burden of providing free housing to any and all tenants instead of properly spreading the burden on the public as a whole.” 

Speer says he had no choice but to put his home on the market.  

That’s where the story takes a bizarre turn. 

“I had to sell it and now there’s a dead guy in my house,” said Speer. 

The new owner hired a hand man to change the locks, and found a dead body inside. 

Speer doesn’t know where the old tenants are, but they told police they don’t know who the dead person is. 

READ: Police investigating body found by maintenance man in North Spokane 

The statewide eviction ban expires December 31. However, it could go into 2021. Governor Inslee has extended the order several times this year. This August, the Department of Commerce was given $100 million in CARES Act funds to pay landlords up to three months of current, future, or past due rent.

READ: Washington’s eviction moratorium includes protection for those living in non-traditional housing